Sweat and speak up: Local gym mixes workouts with social justice

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) As gyms across New York State prepare to open MJ Karp, owner of Sweat716 says she is excited about being back open but to her, its an added bonus.

“Obviously I was upset because it is my livelihood but we were able to transition online pretty seamlessly so it was a weight off our shoulders.”

After successfully pivoting classes online and keeping her clientele fit, Karp took the closing of her business for months in stride. What she didn’t take well was the racist and prejudice things she saw during the weeks of protests in Buffalo.

“With the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor it seemed like we had bigger fish to fry than protesting a gym not being open.”

Karp and her employees decided to take action. The gyms Instagram became a platform for social justice, with posts about how to use white privilege to stop racism, reminders that love is love, that Black lives still matter, and calls to arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor, mixed in with how to sign up for Glute Camp and Mimosa and Mobility.

“We did a lot of donation-based classes where they would be free to sign up and people donated if they could. We did one for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, the African Heritage Food Co-op, the explosion in Lebanon. We’ve been trying to direct people to the bigger picture of what’s going on than I can’t get to the gym and lift weights.”

Karp says Sweat 716 is a diverse family and when you see someone in your family hurting you have to do something about it. When asked if she ever thought that being vocal about the BLM movement would hurt her business, she says” whoever we lose, we lose.”

“Anyone who resits that is just not our people. They’re not the clientele that would fit in our family or the people we want here. I will always speak up for what’s right and this gym will too.”

MJ and Lydia prepare the schedule for in person classes at Sweat716.

Lydia Frechette is a long time member of Sweat and recently became an instructor. She says it was important for her to work in an environment where she felt completely supported.

“A lot of people of color are trying to find where we stand with our groups of people and it’s really great to know that my gym had my back without me having to say anything. There are no words. In a time where you feel like you have to fight all the time, a lot of people of color feel like they’re in survival mode, it’s nice to have somebody else pick up the fight for you and you’re not on your own.”

Kelly Khatib is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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